by Kerri Boddy
Senior Environmental Specialist

Have you ever come across that perfect property and then comes the due diligence period, that unfolds something like this…

The Seller’s team has indicated there formerly were underground storage tanks (USTs) on the property, but they have been removed and the regulatory authority was involved. Hearing this news, you hire your favorite Environmental Professional (EP) and ask them to complete a Phase I ESA, just to make sure everything checks out. Good News! Based upon the extensive records review completed by your EP, a Closure Assessment Report (CAR) was discovered and it clearly indicates that USTs were in fact present on the property, but they were removed and the regulatory authority even issued a “No Further Action” letter! Then comes the final Phase I ESA report and your EP includes some recommendations to complete a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Survey.

If we have a Closure Assessment Report (CAR) AND this site was granted a “No Further Action,” why would we perform any additional work? Isn’t the liability gone? Didn’t we just find the gold standard, that “No Further Action” letter, in ensuring we have nothing else to worry about? In this episode, we provide a few examples of when you might want to consider looking a little deeper (no pun intended) and ensuring you are fully protected from these potential liabilities.  

When you have a Closure Assessment Report (CAR) stating underground storage tanks (USTs) have been removed and that removal has been granted a “No Further Action” status from the State or other governing regulatory body, it might seem that nothing else is needed. While this is often the case, many times it is unknown if additional tanks remain on site; including tanks that pre-date the requirement for registration at the Federal and State levels in the 1980s. Uncovering such information is typically accomplished by performing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). In some cases, a Phase I was not performed and in other cases a Phase I exists but did not verify the possible presence of orphaned/abandoned USTs.  

I provide the following as examples:

  1. A Phase I ESA does not exist.  The CAR indicates tanks were installed in 1995 and removed in 2015.  One diesel tank and two gasoline tanks were removed, closure was granted by the State or other governing regulatory body, per a closure letter, and all appears to be resolved.  The property is located at a major intersection and the past use of the property (i.e., prior to 1995) is unknown. Upon review of available online aerial photographs, it is discovered that the property was developed in the 1960s for commercial purposes and appears to contain a gasoline/fueling facility. Upon checking online property information available from the county assessor’s website, it is determined that the building was constructed in 1955 and renovated in the mid-1990s as a convenience store. Additionally, the property was owned by ABC Oil Company in 1955. This begs the question, where are the tanks that operated likely from 1955 to 1995? While many times the newer tanks are placed in the same tank pit as the original tanks, this is not always the case and such an assumption can be dangerous. As such, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey is recommended to rule out the continued presence of the original set of tanks.

  2. A Phase I ESA does exist and indicates one diesel and two gasoline tanks were installed at the property in 1980 and removed in 2015.  The CAR indicates the three tanks were removed and closure was granted by the State or other governing regulatory body, in a closure letter, and all appears to be resolved. Upon review of the Phase I, it is determined that the property provided automotive repair services in the 1980s and 1990s. Reference is made to a waste oil underground storage tank, which does not require registration per Federal UST regulations and as such, the State has no record of such a tank. Such tanks are generally installed in a separate tank pit than the gasoline and diesel tanks and as such, this tank likely was not discovered during the 2015 removal event. In such a case, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey is recommended to rule out the continued presence of the waste oil tank.

If you have due diligence needs or other questions regarding other environmental concerns, please contact EI’s Senior Environmental Specialist, Kerri Boddy, at (502) 499-2985 or [email protected].